Friday, March 28, 2008

Wham: Rhodiola rosea Making Big News

The herb Rhodiola rosea has been quietly making itself known in the USA market and in other countries around the globe. One of the group of herbs referred to as "adaptogens," Rhodiola has been used for a thousand years or more in countries like Russia and Sweden, where the use goes back to Viking days. It is said that Rhodiola was such a valuable medicine and tonic in Scandinavia that the Viking king Harald prohibited the taking of more than a small piece of root from each plant; this must have been the first-ever attempt at ethical wildcrafting (a practice that is still in effect today).

Rhodiola rosea is one of those plants that is difficult to market, particularly in the States where herbs are sold for one purpose. Saw Palmetto is sold for its effect on the prostate, St. Johns Wort is sold for its effect on depression, Ginseng as an "energizer," etc. Customers in the North American market assume that they buy an herb for a specific purpose, and the idea of a plant that has so many benefits is just a bit unusual. In this case, the plant is a tonic. Daily ingestion of Rhodiola over time has a huge effect on many aspects of a healthy body. I've taken it for six or seven years now, daily, and I haven't had a cold or flu in that entire time.

As an adaptogen, Rhodiola helps to normalize the body's processes. This includes what many consider to be one of the strongest brain effects available from a plant. "Mental energy" is the way it is often described . . . Rhodiola ingestion tends to go first and foremost to the brain, improving mental clarity -- providing a boost in energy that can be life-changing for many of those who try it for the first time.

Dr. Andrew Weil, writing in his March 28, 2008 Weekly Wellness Bulletin describes Rhodiola as a plant that "should be more widely known." He goes on to describe specific clinical trials of this plant which have been reported on this site on earlier occasion (use the search function above and type in Rhodiola). Well-known herbalist and "medicine hunter" Chris Kilham refers in a Life Extension Magazine article (December, '07) to Rhodiola as "the single most beneficial medicinal plant in the world."

It is clinical trials, however, which separate Rhodiola from most of the other herbs on the market that also promise increased health benefits such as energy, mental clarity and an improved outlook on life. In this case, Rhodiola shines, because these double-blind, placebo-controlled studies are considered to be top-of-class. Weil's latest review discusses the Nordic study that shows Rhodiola's huge benefit to those with depression. By offering a significant mood uplift, this herb is actually shown to have the clinical effect that is generally seen from drugs with their huge side effect problems. Or, as in the case of other herbs such as St. Johns Wort, issues with drug interaction that are just not present with Rhodiola.

As Rhodiola rosea begins to climb the ladder of top-selling herbs in the USA, it is my hope that it will bring other natural remedies along with it. Many people are trying Rhodiola as their first herbal supplement, specifically because so many doctors are now starting to recommend it to their patients, This may open the eyes of people who have not had previous experience with the healing power of plants.


Thursday, March 27, 2008

Wham: Veggies Are Very Important to Breast Cancer Prevention

Do you remember how your Mom used to say how important it is to eat those vegetables, and how difficult it was to consume something like broccoli? My Mom used to go on by saying how millions of people were starving in China and that if I didn't eat that plate of vegetables, it would be an "insult to God."

While I think that Mom may have gone a bit overboard by trying to make me feel guilty, she was sure correct about the health value of eating those veggies. Especially for my two sisters. That's because researchers with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Shanghai Cancer Institute in China have recently discovered a possible link between a diet rich in certain vegetables and a decreased risk for breast cancer. The study appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Jay Fowke, Ph.D., assistant professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt-Ingram, said that 3,035 women diagnosed with breast cancer were identified through the Shanghai Cancer Registry. These women were closely matched with 3,037 randomly chosen patients from the general population there. Questionnaires about their diet, including consumption of cruciferous vegetables like Chinese cabbage, bok choi and turnips then took place.

Other cruciferous veggies more commonly eaten in the USA include broccoli, kale and cauliflower.

“Cruciferous vegetables contain some compounds that may have a cancer-inhibitory effect,” explained Fowke. “Here we were able to identify a group of women who seem to particularly benefit from a high intake of these vegetables.”

While there was only a small positive relationship between a diet high in these vegetables and a reduction in breast cancer risk for the overall study population, there was a striking risk reduction – 50 percent – among a certain sub-group of women. These women had a phenomenal response to eating cruciferous vegetables.

Cruciferous vegetables contain two chemicals called isothiocyanates and indole-3-carbinol which may affect the onset of cancer by triggering cell death or by changing the metabolism of estrogen. Studies by other researchers have suggested cruciferous vegetables may reduce the risk of lung, stomach, colorectal and bladder cancers as well.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New Study Shows Dangers of Bowel Cleansers Prior to Colonoscopy

Surprising findings were published in the March 24 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine which show that one of the most often suggested bowel cleaning preparations used by people who are about to have a colonoscopy can trigger both acute kidney failure and possibly long-term renal damage in otherwise healthy patients.

The risks in taking oral sodium phosphate solution and/or tablets is certainly real, although still a rare occurrence. In this article, author Dr. Anand Khurana, of the department of nephrology with Texas A&M University, says that "people should be very cautious in the use of these agents because of their potential of causing kidney damage." Especially when there is another product that can work just as well without this potential side effect.

The other popular prescription colonoscopy preparation -- polyethylene glycol solutions (PEG) -- was not the subject of the current study and does not appear to be associated with similar risks.

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration put a black-box warning on the oral sodium phosphate solution, recommending that it be "used with caution" among patients with impaired kidney function due to its high phosphate content. However, the latest finding extends that concern to patients with no previous history of kidney trouble.

The problem stems from the fact that patients must ingest a bowel-cleansing liquid to clear out the colon, as well as refrain from eating solid foods the day before the procedure. The phosphate solution and tablets have been the preparations of preference because of convenience, as they are available without a prescription and require less clear liquid consumption than the polyethylene glycol solution.

Regardless of this inconvenience, if you are going to undergo a colonoscopy in the near future it would be wise to ensure you are using the bowel-cleaner with PEG, and with no potential to harm your kidneys or cause long-term damage.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Wham: Vitamin D's Importance to Children

The online journal Archives of Disease in Childhood has a new report that children who take vitamin D supplements may be less likely to develop type 1 diabetes later in life. The researchers who published this information analyzed the findings of five previously published studies.

They found that children who were given additional vitamin D were about 30 percent less likely to develop type 1 diabetes than children who didn't receive vitamin D supplements. The evidence presented in this article also indicated that the higher and more regular the dose of vitamin D, the lower the risk of developing diabetes.

The incidence of type 1 diabetes increases by about 3 percent a year currently. It is estimated that new cases of the disease will have increased 40 percent between 2000 and 2010. Those of European descent are most likely to have type 1 diabetes; the disease affects about two million Europeans and North Americans. It develops when insulin-producing cells in the pancreas are destroyed by the body's immune system, a process that begins in early infancy.

There's evidence that levels of vitamin D and exposure to sunlight, which prompts the body to make vitamin D, influence the risk of developing other types of autoimmune disorders as well.

The review authors noted that global rates of type 1 diabetes vary greatly, according to latitude and levels of sunlight. For example, a child in Finland is 400 times more likely than a child in Venezuela to develop type 1 diabetes.


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sham: Long Term Use of Osteoporosis Drugs Starting to Show Hidden Danger

New research has shown that long-term use of the osteoporosis drug Fosamax may weaken the bones in a group of people taking the drug. Unfortunately, scientists have not yet discovered how to determine who will be affected by these drugs that are meant to strengthen bones instead of weakening them further.

This unusual side effect results in some patients suffering broken legs after minor falls. It's likely that other drugs in the same class as Fosamax may have the same potential side effect. It is now showing up in a small number of patients who have taken Fosamax for more than five years.

Joseph M. Lane, MD, chief of the metabolic bone disease service at New York/Presbyterian Hospital reports 15 cases of unusual bone fractures in postmenopausal women who had been taking Fosamax for more than five years. All had fractures along the length of the femur, the long bone in the thigh, after falls. This side effect was noted in a letter to the March 20 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.

This problem appears to lead to a distinct and very unusual fracture pattern. A number of the patients that Lane and his colleagues from Weill-Cornell Medical College reported on had been taking Fosamax for more than seven years; the other five patients averaged less than three years of Fosamax use.

Prolonged use of these drugs, classified as bisphosphonates, may lead to this unusual fracture pattern as a side effect. Other bisphosphonates include Aredia, Didronel, Skelid, and Zometa. Fosamax is the only one in which problems have been seen so far, most likely because it was first to market in this category of drug.


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Wham: Red Wine Again in the News

There's new information out about the value of moderate amounts of red wine. In this case, it is shown as a benefit for a healthy smile.

Scientists have found that certain compounds in red wine could play a role in preventing gum disease and tooth loss. The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for Dental Research in Orlando, Florida.

Researchers from Laval University in Quebec, Canada, studied the effect of extracts from red wines on different types of periodontal disease, all of which affect the gums and bone around the teeth. (Periodontal disease affects more than two-thirds of adults over 50 and one in seven people aged between 21 and 50). This disease can often lead to tooth loss if left untreated.

Polyphenols are compounds that are found in the skin and seeds of grapes, and they have long been studied by researchers, including this team from Laval, for their health benefits. When wine is made from grapes, the alcohol produced by the fermentation process dissolves the polyphenols. Red wine is the one with the health benefits, because white wine does not contain as many polyphenols. The production process for white wine involves removing the skins after the grapes have been crushed.

When extracts of Bordeaux wine were used to treat periodontal bacteria in laboratory conditions, the Quebec scientists found that the polyphenols had a "significant inhibitory" effect on the growth of the bacteria. They concluded that the compounds could help to prevent the spread of gum diseases. However, the experts also found that too much of these polyphenols can have a toxic effect on other cells in the mouth. They are now working to determine ways to harness the benefits from red wine extracts without the risks.

Still red wine has had a great deal of recent publicity. This wine has been shown to have a number of health benefits, including reducing the risk of heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer's disease, again because of the polyphenols it contains. Red wine has also been found to be a good source of fibre, which can help to prevent bowel cancer. And last month, Italian scientists found that feeding fish a certain polyphenol in red wine, resveratrol, extended their lives by up to 60 per cent.


Friday, March 14, 2008

Wham: Compound in Soybean Puts the Brakes on Prostate Cancer

The March 15 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, describes how a compound found in soybeans almost completely prevented the spread of human prostate cancer in mice.

Researchers say that the amount of the chemical, an antioxidant known as genistein, used in the experiments was no higher than what a human would eat in a soybean-rich diet. Scientists from Northwestern University found that genistein decreased metastasis of prostate cancer to the lungs by 96 percent compared with mice that did not eat the compound in their daily diet - making the study the first to demonstrate genistein can stop prostate cancer metastasis in a living organism.

“Diet can affect cancer and it doesn’t do it by magic,” the main author of this report, Dr. Bergan, said. “Certain chemicals have beneficial effects and now we have all the preclinical studies we need to suggest genistein might be a very promising chemopreventive drug.”

In this study, investigators fed genistein to several groups of mice before implanting them with an aggressive form of prostate cancer. The amount of genistein in the blood of the animals was comparable to human blood concentrations after consumption of soy foods, Bergan said. The researchers found that while genistein didn’t reduce the size of tumors that developed within the prostate, it stopped lung metastasis almost completely. They repeated the experiment and found the same result.

"What we found demonstrated that the compound is having a primary effect on metastasis," said the authors.

Bergan cautioned that much is unknown about use of genistein in preventing cancer spread. For example, it may be that the effects of the compound in people who have eaten soy all their lives is stronger than benefit seen in patients who have only started to use genistein.

“The problem we have faced is that epidemiology studies that found men who eat soy are at reduced risk of prostate cancer death are all associative. They don’t prove anything,” he said. “The only way we will find out how promising genistein is will be from conducting clinical trials.”

Obviously, that's the next step in this exciting new area of research.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Wham: Non-Drinkers Alert -- Alcohol has some health benefits

Reuters has reported that people who do not drink alcohol may finally have a reason to start -- a study published on Friday shows non-drinkers who begin taking the occasional tipple live longer and are less likely to develop heart disease.

Dr. Dana King of the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston and colleagues found that people who started drinking in middle age were 38 percent less likely to have a heart attack or other serious heart event than abstainers -- even if they were overweight, had diabetes, high blood pressure or other heart risks.

There has been a lot of good news about a bit of wine or alcohol and the health benefits that result; in the past, however, these researchers have cautioned that there is no reason for the abstinent to start drinking. That could be said differently today.

King's team studied the medical records of 7,697 people between 45 and 64 who began as non-drinkers as part of a larger study. Over 10 years, 6 percent of these volunteers began drinking, King's team reported in the American Journal of Medicine. Over the next four years the researchers tracked the new drinkers and when they compared them to the persistent non-drinkers, there was a 38 percent drop in new cardiovascular disease.

That's right, the drinkers had healthier cardiovascular systems than the non-drinkers. The findings held even when the researchers factored in heart disease risks such as smoking, high blood pressure, obesity, race, education levels, exercise and cholesterol.

Several of the volunteers had more than one risk factor and still benefited from adding alcohol. Recommended amounts equal a drink or two a day by most guidelines. Even men who drank every single day of the year were 20 percent less likely to die of heart disease than men who drank just one to 36 days per year -- if they drank moderately.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Is Contamination in Baby Foods Next? New Manufacturing Plant in China On The Way

One of the US's largest suppliers of infant formula is now investing $280 Million to build a nutritional manufacturing facility in China. This manufacturing facility, in Suzhou Industrial Park, Jiangsu Province, China, will primarily produce infant formula milk powder and other nutritional products. When completed, the site will be one of the world's largest nutritional manufacturing facilities.

The new facility will become part of Wyeth's global nutritional manufacturing and supply network and will feature high-technology manufacturing of milk powder for infants and young children.

I don't know about you, but reading this press release made me queasy. Although Wyeth Pharmaceuticals is passing it off as an attempt to fill the needs of the Chinese market, I suspect that it is simply another "offshoring" effort, and that this Chinese made baby formula will be in our market soon enough.

With all the concern about Chinese quality and product contamination, it seems absolutely crazy to start making baby formula in China.


Monday, March 10, 2008

New Species of Bacteria Discovered in Hairspray

The AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) reports that a new species of bacteria has been found which lives in and contaminates hairspray.

The results of a study published in the March issue of the International Journal of Systematic and Evolutionary Microbiology shows how industrial contamination can actually lead to the development of new organisms, or provide a medium which supports dangerous, existing bacteria.

“Contamination of cosmetic products is rare but some products may be unable to suppress the growth of certain bacteria,” says Dr Bakir from the Japan Collection of Microorganisms, Saitama, Japan. “We discovered a new species of bacteria called Microbacterium hatanonis, which we found contaminates hairspray.”

“We also found a related species, Microbacterium oxydans in hairspray which was originally isolated from hospital material. Microbacterium species have been identified in milk, cheese, beef, eggs and even in the blood of patients with leukaemia, on catheters and in bone marrow.”

The scientists looked at the appearance and diet of the bacterium, then analysed its genome to show that it is an entirely new species. “It has been named in honor of Dr Kazunori Hatano, for his contribution to the understanding of the genus Microbacterium,” said Dr Bakir.

Similar bacteria have been found to infect humans, and the goal now is to determine the clinical importance of the new species. “Further testing will establish whether the species is a threat to human health,” says Dr Bakir. “We hope our study will benefit the formulation of hairspray to prevent contamination in the future.”


Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wham: Severe Allergy Desensitization Program Working in Italy

Children who suffer from severe food allergies are seen in increasing numbers all over the world. In Italy, some progress is being made via a new type of desensitization program. Dramatic results -- equating to a cure -- have been seen in numbers of patients.

The medical team of the Pediatric Clinic of the University of Trieste has demonstrated the possibility that “superallergic” children can accept problem foods without suffering from severe, and occasionally lethal reactions such as anaphylaxis. The study – directed by professor Alessandro Ventura – lasted three years, at the end of which 36% of the children involved, once severely allergic to even minimal contact with the dangerous food, achieved the ability to follow a normal diet without presenting any adverse reactions. 54% of the remaining patients involved in the study had some allergic symptoms remain, but were able to tolerate minimal quantities of the problem food in their diet.

With this work recently published by the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, the researchers confirmed the validity of a face-to-face direct approach to severe food allergies that this clinic has long been practicing in direct opposition to the approach most allergists recommend of simply avoiding problem foods.

Sixty Italian children, classified as “superallergic” to milk or eggs according to the severity of the symptoms, were selected and involved in the study. The desensitization program is done in two sections. The first one, where there is a major risk of severe reactions, lasts 10 days and takes place in a hospital. During that time, the problem food is administered at rapidly increasing doses, at two hour intervals, until at discharge the child is able to eat a significant amount of that food. The second section takes place at home with the cooperation of the parents. There, the administration of the problem food occurs once a day, at a much slower and gradual rate of increase. In doing so the child is able to tolerate ever-increasing doses until he or she is able to follow a completely normal diet. The positive result (recovery) is usually obtained within a year.

The results – One third of the treated patient group now eats freely, whatever he or she feels like. Half of them have not reached a normal diet yet, but are able to introduce significant quantities of the problem foods without showing any adverse reaction. 10% of the treated patients did not respond positively to the treatment, and despite all the attempts, continue to present adverse reactions. There were no lethal cases despite the fact that these allergies were of the most extreme type.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

Wham: Vitamin C Veggies such as Peppers, Broccoli, and Spinach Reduce Prostate Cancer Risk

An interesting study was recently reported on in the journal Prostate Cancer & Prostatic Diseases which inadvertently found a strong connection between vitamin C-rich vegetables and a reduced prostate cancer risk.

This Australian study was conducted by Dr. Gina Ambrosini, from the University of Western Australia in Perth, and her colleagues. They were studying a large number of men (1,985) who were previously exposed to asbestos and researchers randomly assigned some of these men to receive 30 mg beta-carotene or 7.5 mg retinol supplements daily as part of a cancer prevention program.

However, in addition the men completed a very detailed food frequency questionnaire to assess and average their daily intakes of 43 foods during the previous year, the team reports in this journal.

During the extended follow-up period (12.7 years) 441 men died. There were 97 incident cases of prostate cancer. The study found, taking into account age and source of asbestos exposure, that their original investigation of vitamin A supplementation was not associated with prostate cancer. However, there was a solid link showing that increased intakes of vitamin C-rich foods, such as peppers, broccoli, and spinach, were indeed associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer. Men consuming higher level of these veggies had a relative risk of prostate cancer of about half of those who did not eat these foods.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Wham: Broccoli's Effect Upon Bladder Cancer

A report in the March 1 issue of Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, describes how an extract of freeze-dried broccoli sprouts cut development of bladder tumors in an animal model by more than half.

This finding reinforces human epidemiologic studies that have suggested that eating cruciferous vegetables like broccoli is associated with reduced risk for bladder cancer. The study’s senior investigator, Yuesheng Zhang, MD, PhD, professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute, says that although this is an animal study, "it provides potent evidence that eating vegetables is beneficial in bladder cancer prevention.”

There is strong evidence that the protective action of cruciferous vegetables derives at least in part from isothyiocyanates (ITCs), a group of phytochemicals with well-known cancer preventive activities.“The bladder is particularly responsive to this group of natural chemicals,” Zhang said. “In our experiments, the broccoli sprout ITCs after oral administration were selectively delivered to the bladder tissues through urinary excretion.”

Other cruciferous vegetables with ITCs include mature broccoli, cabbage, kale, collard greens and others. Broccoli sprouts have approximately 30 times more ITCs than mature broccoli, and the sprout extract used by the researchers contains approximately 600 times as much.

Zhang said humans at increased risk for this cancer likely do not need to eat huge amounts of broccoli sprouts in order to derive protective benefits.

“Epidemiologic studies have shown that dietary ITCs and cruciferous vegetable intake are inversely associated with bladder cancer risk in humans. It is possible that doses much lower than those given to the rats in this study may be adequate for bladder cancer prevention,” he said. In the group of animals given the broccoli extract, no tumors developed, and there was no toxicity from the extract shown in the rats, either.